LUCKNOW: With the by-election for the legislative council seat vacated by former Chief Minister Narayan Rane round the corner, Maharashtra BJP has started efforts to woo the Shiv Sena and the NCP while keeping Rane at bay. Though the short-term aim is to build consensus for the bypolls, the real target is the six Rajya Sabha and 21 Legislative Council seats to be filled before July next year.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday. Earlier in the day, two key ministers from his Cabinet, Chandrakant Patil and Vinod Tawde, met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his Matoshree residence in suburban Bandra. State BJP core committee leaders huddled at the CM’s official residence Versha late in the night.
According to sources, three major things transpired through all these meetings—keeping former chief minister Narayan Rane away at least for the time being, developing an association with Shiv Sena to get their help in elections and finalising a list of potential BJP candidates for approval from the top brass.
A list of six candidates has been finalised, a senior leader told The Sunday Standard without revealing names. One of them, chosen by the top party leadership, will contest the legislative council bypoll, while the other will get a chance next year in July, the leaders said.
Shiv Sena was opposed to Rane’s candidature and has clarified that they would support any other BJP candidate. This has avoided the potential horse-trading as the BJP-Shiv Sena combine has a support of around 208 in the 288-member house.
The Congress doesn’t appear to be in a mood to contest the bypoll. Former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, during his tenure, had initiated similar efforts to build consensus in all the legislative council polls.
The plan would suit Rane also, as he can always hope to contest polls in next six months.
Biennial polls for six Rajya Sabha seats are to be held in April. The BJP expects to win three, and if they leave one seat each for the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the NCP, there won’t be any need of the elections.
According to sources in the BJP, Fadnavis—who had always opposed the growing closeness between the party and Rane—met party president Amit Shah at Ahmedabad earlier this week and convinced of not hurting the Shiv Sena by keeping Rane at bay.
The last date for filing the nominations for the by-poll is November 27, while the last date for withdrawing the nominations is November 30. However, the picture is likely to be clear before 27, the sources have said.
Of the 21 Legislative Council seats that would go vacant in May, June and July 2018, 11 seats are from the Elected by MLAs (EMLA) constituency are due to be held in July 2018. Of the rest 10, six are Local Authorities constituency (May-June) and two each of Graduates and Teachers constituency (July).
NCP is the strongest party in the 78-member legislative council with 23 members, while the Congress has 19, BJP 17 and Shiv Sena 9. The BJP plans to tone down the opposition it faces while getting Bills cleared in the Upper House by building consensus while getting its maximum number of members elected to the upper house of the legislature.
It would also help Rane to join the cabinet at a later stage and get elected to the upper house through any of these polls next year, the BJP sources have said.
In the fray
The BJP has several aspirants for the legislative council seat. Forerunners are spokesperson Madhav Bhandari, treasurer Shina N C, former organising secretary Raghunath Kulkarni and former NCP leader who had had joined the BJP in 2014 Prasad Lad. Lad and Shina NC are financially strong candidates and the party won’t like to filed them if the election is through consensus. In that condition the party is likely to chose Bhandari as Kulkarni has been given responsibility of Daman and Diu, said a party leader.